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Title: An Optically Discovered Outburst from XTE J1859+226

Using the Zwicky Transient Facility, in 2021 February we identified the first known outburst of the black hole X-ray transient XTE J1859+226 since its discovery in 1999. The outburst was visible at X-ray, UV, and optical wavelengths for less than 20 days, substantially shorter than its full outburst of 320 days in 1999, and the observed peak luminosity was 2 orders of magnitude lower. Its peak bolometric luminosity was only 2 × 1035erg s−1, implying an Eddington fraction of about 3 × 10−4. The source remained in the hard spectral state throughout the outburst. From optical spectroscopy measurements we estimate an outer disk radius of 1011cm. The low observed X-ray luminosity is not sufficient to irradiate the entire disk, but we observe a surprising exponential decline in the X-ray light curve. These observations highlight the potential of optical and infrared synoptic surveys to discover low-luminosity activity from X-ray transients.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 21
["Article No. 21"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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